Philosophical, Theological, Theoretical Framework
The program in Religion and Conflict Transformation seeks to partner with religious leaders in developing a theology, theory and practice of faith-based conflict transformation. The Religion and Conflict Transformation program carries this work not only into faith communities but also into the realm of the public square with reference to local, national and international conflict.
Churches and communities of faith are not simply local and parochial bodies but are parts of wider communities of faith and practice. They function in the public square as much as within the bounds of particular traditions. They raise the question of not only how to be faithful, but also how to live faithfully in a world of difference. Churches and communities of faith have their own agendas, but they are also drawn into conflict as faith is easily hijacked for other purposes. Religion can be a source of conflict as well as an instrument for peace. In recognition of particular areas of conflict in today’s world, this program seeks to lay out principles essential to the building of a culture of reconciliation.
Our focus is on training religious leaders for work in faith-communities located in a multi-cultural, multi-faith World. The RCT Program is focused on making churches and other religious communities spiritual and practical centers of conflict transformation and reconciliation. Whether they are in New York City, Johannesburg, or Beijing, in the city, in the suburbs, in prison, on the battlefield or in the missionary field, these grassroots communities can and ought to have just peace, shalom, or reconciliation at the center of their spiritual and theological lives.
We believe that ideally every student, whether from Bronxville or from Zimbabwe should have such a multi-cultural, multi-faith experience, and think of their work in communities of faith with a multi-cultural, multi-faith perspective. Our classroom itself is a multi-cultural world, with a large percentage of our students coming from outside the United States. In doing this work, we are sensitive to the cultural differences, helping to train people to elicit those ways of promoting peace that are part of the local culture. All this is about appreciating differences and learning to live in a multi-cultural world, in a multi-cultural international church. Our international trips and the opportunities for practica outside of the United States are focused on religious communities and their role in peacebuilding. This includes Christian communities, but also communities of other faiths. We are working, for example, on how we address exclusivist claims, having a strong center, but very porous boundaries. We are working with our students to understand a theology of reconciliation as well as a theology of religions, believing with Hans Kung that we will not have peace in this world without dialogue and peace among the world religions.